In a Letter to the Editor that ran in Tuesday's News-Star, John Karlin, of Tecumseh, shared his view — suggesting SQ640 be repealed by the Legislature, citing that state Sen. Ron Sharp has said it ties their hands. On Tuesday, Sharp issued a response to the letter, explaining that SQ640 came about as a direct result of voter petitioning, so a repeal would not work.

In a Letter to the Editor that ran in Tuesday's News-Star, John Karlin, of Tecumseh, shared his view — suggesting SQ640 be repealed by the Legislature, citing that state Sen. Ron Sharp has said it ties their hands. On Tuesday, Sharp issued a response to the letter, explaining that SQ640 came about as a direct result of voter petitioning, so a repeal would not work.

“State Question 640 resulted from a citizen Initiative Petition drive in which thousands of Oklahoma's registered voters signed,” Sharp said. “The resulting 1992 Referendum was overwhelming approved in special election in March 1992 (56.2-percent approval).”

He said most state questions are voted on in the next general election. There was an urgency tied to that particular state question, he said, because reflectively a special election was held for it.

“Therefore, it would not be tolerated by the Oklahoma voters for the legislature to present a state question to voters to repeal that constitutional provision,” he said.

“Voters would consider that contrary to their 1992 vote and redundant to their political will,” Sharp said.

If there is a political will to repeal that constitutional provision, he said, it will require another Initiative Petition.

“However, after any historical background of why the first SQ 640 was petitioned and subsequently approved, it would not be likely the voters would repeal the restrictions of SQ 640,” he said.

The media and public's reaction to a legislative effort to repeal SQ 640 would be negative, he said.

“There is clearly not a public opinion poll that reveals any support to repeal SQ 640,” Sharp said.

He said SQ 640 was the reaction to HB 1017 in 1990.

HB 1017 was passed by the legislature to increase taxes for additional revenue for public schools, Sharp said.

“History does repeat itself and Oklahoma is back in many of the same problems it faced in 1990 when HB 1017 was passed,” he said.

SQ 640 requires the legislature to have a three-fourths supermajority to raise taxes, he said.

“Of course, the probability of attaining that number of votes to raise a specific tax rate is improbable,” he said.

Another aspect of SQ 640, Sharp said, is that ad valorem taxes can not be more than 5 percent each year.

“Since 1992, it has been lowered to 3 percent,” he said. “However, that is assuming your ad valorem has been equitably assessed.”

Several of Oklahoma 77 counties have been designated as under-assessed, he said.

“A new computerized assessment system has been implemented in the state to maintain an equity county by county,” he said. “Subsequently, older properties assessment should be reduced and newer properties increased under this evaluation.”

He said this assessment excludes the ad valorem that voters have approved for local school district improvements.

“There is a segment of the public that wants to repeal the restrictions placed on the legislature by SQ 640,” he said. “This group wants the legislature to be in a position to raise taxes.”

In 2017, the move is to provide needed revenue for public schools, again struggling for survival, he said.

During the 1980s the crash of the oil and gas business led to major education cuts in Oklahoma's public education system, he said.

“The boom to bust Oklahoma economy had again come to focus,” Sharp said.

HB 1017 raised taxes for public education, he said, but the public reacted with a vengeance to prevent the legislature from raising taxes ever again.

“Now, the legislature must submit to a vote of the people an increase in taxes,” he said. “A possibility of the three-fourths supermajority in the legislature requires that direction.”

The defeat of SQ 779 in November has directed the fix to Oklahoma legislature, according to those who want to repeal SQ 640, he said.

“However, they are frustrated the legislature is limited in its ability to raise taxes to provide that fix,” Sharp said.

You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.